To Suffolk County Legislature William Spencer (D-Centerport), banning the sale of powdered caffeine in Suffolk County to minors was “a no-brainer.”
“It really just kind of hit me where I said, ‘OK, wait a second.’ They’re selling something that has as much as 10-20 grams of caffeine; the recommended dose of caffeine is 90 milligrams and at 99 percent concentration, 1 teaspoon has 3,200 milligrams, which is a lethal dose for children,” Spencer said. “A 5,000 milligram dose will kill an adult… In our homes, we think cups, quarts, gallons – a teaspoon is usually the smallest measurement we use, and a teaspoon of this stuff can kill you.”
Currently, powdered caffeine is available for purchase at a few retailers in Suffolk County – with low sales numbers, Spencer said – but the product is also available for purchase online, something that cannot be regulated by the county. In order to prevent the issue from becoming more widespread, Spencer said, he partnered with Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory last week to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors in Suffolk County, the first law of its kind in the world, he said.
“We want to warn the kids,” Spencer said. “This should be a controlled substance… Some argue that low amounts of caffeine can stimulate the brain and give mental clarity, but that quickly leads to anxiousness and confusion… There are no positive uses.”
Difficulty breathing, dizziness, convulsions, fever, hallucinations, irregular rapid heartbeat, vomiting and death have all been linked to caffeine overdoses, the legislation reads, but the effects of the drug have perhaps most prominently, and unfortunately, been seen in the death of an Ohio high school senior, Logan Stiner, who overdosed on the powdered substance in May.
“Ever since [Stiner’s] death I’ve had [this ban] on my radar… [And] as a result of the legislation, his family reached out to us,” Spencer said, adding that the family will be heading to Washington to further advocate for action against the substance. “That will really fast track the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] into looking at this… Passing a law in Suffolk County is manifesting an impact in the federal government.”
The law has also made waves in the business world, Spencer said; one of the known manufacturers of powdered caffeine has already begun reformulating their product.
“That to me is the ultimate legislative victory, when at least one of the manufacturers honors the national attention,” he said. “What it does is put a spotlight on the issue.”
Effective once it is filed in the Office of the Secretary of State, Spencer hopes to see the law in action by the beginning of 2015, if not the end of this year.